In mixed martial arts, where one punch can end your night and maybe your career, it’s hard enough to have an undefeated record. Imagine doing it with one hand tied behind your back.
Or just one hand. Period.
That’s what Nick Newell has done. The 27-year-old from Connecticut, who was born without a left hand, defended his perfect record Saturday night when he scored a first-round submission of former "Ultimate Fighter" competitor Keon Caldwell with a guillotine choke in the World Series of Fighting 4 in Ontario, Calif.
"I lost my footing in the beginning and I actually got a little rattled when I went to throw him," Newell told MMAfighting.com. "I caught a bit of an accidental headbutt but that was it. It was a great honor to fight in front of this crowd and all the troops that came out to support me. Can’t wait to do it again."
It’s just the latest victory for a fighter who never was expected to be in the ring.
“There’s so many things that I’ve learned to do that people said I’d never be able to do,” Newell, who’s unbeaten in 10 fights, recently told The New York Post. “It just kind of makes me laugh at this point. Like OK, you go ahead and tell me what I can’t do from the couch, from your little computer, and I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway.”
Newell’s mother Stacey, a single mom, deserves much of the credit for helping Nick overcome his disability.
“You can’t be mad about it and you can’t dwell on it,” she said. “But you can’t listen to other people tell you where your life is going either."
Newell was an all-state wrestler in high school, winning a record 53 matches, and competed at Western New England University. He has knocked out or submitted all but one of his opponents.
“Nobody ever looked at him as having a disability,” said Andrew Calandrelli, head coach at Ultimate MMA gym. “If they did, they’re going to get beaten up.”
Newell’s success in the ring has made him a hero to kids with disabilities, the way former MLB pitcher Jim Abbott was to him as a kid.
“You can say, ‘Oh life’s not fair’ and complain and think the world owes you something,” Newell said. “Or you can suck it up and just work a little bit harder than everyone else to achieve the things you want to achieve.”